Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Do Women Photographers not TA?

Art Schools are stereotypically female heavy, and Yale is no exception. This is particularly true of the photography department, where of 18 photographers, 12 are women. There are a lot of issues that arise, because most of the faculty and critics who visit the department are male, creating an odd dynamic where most of the time a group of men is critiquing a female students.

What I realized today when I saw my TA Thomas walking down the street, was that of seven photography classes I have taken, I have only had one and a half female TA's. I say one half, because this semester a second year female student is sharing a TA position with a first year male student.

I of course have no idea what causes this discrepancy, I just know that almost every male student in the department has held a TA position, and apparently very of few of the female students do so.

The problem with this, and again, I have no idea if this represents some sort of institutional discrimination, luck on my part, or a general disinterest towards teaching felt by the female students, but regardless, I have not had the benefit of hearing a female perspective on photography (something I yearn for) and female grad students miss out on the opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience and the relationship they could develop with the art professors. Sad.


Elizabeth said...

This is interesting and noteworthy - though I challenge the concept of increasing female TAs on the ground that they offer some "female perspective". Doesn't this essentialize women to be representatives of the female sex, presuming that there is something innate about our sex to be offered? Perhaps others think there is something innate about being female -to me it's dangerous to make this argument, especially when I think of it in terms of race (since we're all for fighting interlocked systems of opression). Diversity in education shouldn't be on grounds that minorities offer some "new perspectives" in the class (just thinking of how many times I've been so kindly asked what the black perspective on Locke or something was), thereby reducing minorities to representatives of the restrictive 'alternative viewpoint'. Diversity in classrooms should exist, I'd think, because it's just to include a fair representation of individuals, irregardless of their utility to the majority's experience.

But this is reproaching the institution when this seems to be women's own self-segregating since they choose to be TAs....curious...

Adda said...

Yeah I agree with your comments in that minorities/women should not be in classes simply to give the perspective from their point of view, although, at the same time, our culture is such that it is structured around issues of race and gender, and often those structures give people a different perspective on various issues that is inaccesible to people outside of that gender/racial group, and discussion is always enriched by a greater variety of perspectives/opinions. In relationship to photography specifically, my desire for female TA's comes from a desire, as a female photographer, to have older female role models/mentors in a largely male dominated field. And this desire becomes especially pronounced when I am in the situation of seeing that most of the graduate students are female (ie most people pursuing MFA degrees at Yale in photography are actually female) and yet the majority of people in positions of power and teaching (professors, critics, TAs) are men.

Although fortunately, my male senior advisor is happy to talk with me at length about my difficulties practicing landscape photography as a women. So its not all bad.